Use of Narratives to Communicate Organics with Commodity Grain Farmers


While grain farming has seen a major shift toward organic production in recent years, the USA continues to lag behind with domestic demand continuing to outpace domestic supply, making the USA an all-around net importer. The Midwestern USA is poised to help remedy this imbalance; however, farmers continue to slowly transition to organic production systems. Existing literature has identified three prevalent narratives that farmers use to frame their organic transition, including environmentalism, farm-family legacy and economic factors, in addition to a four and untested religiosity narrative. This study sought to better understand how these different narratives frame grain farmers’ thought processes for transitioning from conventional production systems to certified organic production systems. We co-created narratives around organic production with farmers, which resulted in four passages aligned with the literature, specifically farm-family legacy, economic values, environmental values and Christianity and stewarding Eden. Then, we mailed a paper survey to conventional, in transition and certified organic Indiana grain farmers in order to test how these different narratives motivated organic production. We found that the most prevalent narrative around organic production is the farm-family legacy, which specifically resonated with midsize farmers. We also found that the religious stewardship narrative resonated with a substantial number of organic and mixed practice farmers, which is likely due to Amish farmers within the sample. These results shed light on the role that narratives and associated values play in organic practice use and can inform the organic efforts of agricultural professionals.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
Wesley Zebrowski
Wesley Zebrowski
PhD candidate in Public Affairs

Wesley Zebrowski is a doctoral candidate in public affairs at Indiana University. Wesley has research interests in agricultural policy and equity.